Habsburg monarchy

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Habsburg monarchy
Habsburgermonarchie (German)
Flag of Austria.svg
Motto:  A.E.I.O.U.
Anthem: " Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser "

(After 1797)

Habsburg Hereditary Lands (1789).svg
The Habsburg monarchy in 1789
Capital Vienna
Prague (1583-1611)
Madrid (Spanish branch)
Official languages German
Catholic Church
Demonym(s) Habsburger
Government Monarchy
Rudolf I [lower-alpha 1]
Frederick III [lower-alpha 2]
Maximilian I
Charles V [lower-alpha 3]
Philip II [lower-alpha 4]
Ferdinand I [lower-alpha 5]
Charles II [lower-alpha 6]
Maria Theresa
Joseph II
Francis II [lower-alpha 7]
Franz Joseph
Charles I [lower-alpha 8]
Historical era
Succeeded by
First Austrian Republic Flag of Austria.svg
Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946) Flag of Hungary with arms (state).svg
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg
Today part of Austria

The Habsburg monarchy (German : Habsburgermonarchie, pronounced [ˈhaːpsbʊʁɡɐmonaʁˌçiː] ), also known as Habsburg Empire (German: Habsburgerreich [ˈhaːpsbʊʁɡɐˌʁaɪç] ), was the collection of empires, kingdoms, duchies, counties and other polities that were ruled by the House of Habsburg and, following the partition of the dynasty, especially by its Austrian branch. From the 18th century it is also referred to as the Danubian monarchy (German: Donaumonarchie [ˈdoːnaʊmonaʁˌçiː] ) or the Austrian monarchy. [2]


The history of the Habsburg monarchy can be traced back to the election of Rudolf I as King of Germany in 1273 [2] and his acquisition of the Duchy of Austria for the Habsburgs in 1282. In 1482, Maximilian I acquired the Netherlands through marriage. Both realms passed to his grandson and successor, Charles V, who also inherited the Spanish throne and its colonial possessions, and thus came to rule the Habsburg empire at its greatest territorial extent. The abdication of Charles V in 1556 led to a division within the dynasty between his son Philip II of Spain and his brother Ferdinand I, who had served as his lieutenant and the elected king of Hungary and Bohemia. The Spanish branch (which held all of Iberia, the Netherlands, and lands in Italy) became extinct in 1700. The Austrian branch (which ruled the Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, Bohemia and various other lands) was itself split into different branches in 1564 but reunited 101 years later.

The Habsburg monarchy was a union of crowns, with only partial shared laws and institutions other than the Habsburg court itself; the provinces were divided in three groups: the Inner Austria, the Archduchy proper, the Higher Austria that included Styria and Carniola, and the Outer Austria with Tyrol and the Swabian lands. The territorial possessions of the monarchy were thus united only by virtue of a common monarch. The Habsburg realms were unified in 1804 with the formation of the Austrian Empire and later split in two with the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The monarchy began to fracture in the face of inevitable defeat during the final years of World War I and ultimately disbanded with the proclamation of the Republic of German-Austria and the First Hungarian Republic in late 1918. [3] [4]

In historiography, the terms "Austria" or "Austrians" are frequently used as shorthand for the Habsburg monarchy since the 18th century. From 1438 to 1806, the rulers of the House of Habsburg almost continuously reigned as Holy Roman Emperors. However, the realms of the Holy Roman Empire were mostly self-governing and are thus not considered to have been part of the Habsburg monarchy. Hence, the Habsburg monarchy (of the Austrian branch) is often called "Austria" by metonymy. Around 1700, the Latin term monarchia austriaca came into use as a term of convenience. [5] Within the empire alone, the vast possessions included the original Hereditary Lands, the Erblande , from before 1526; the Lands of the Bohemian Crown; the formerly Spanish Austrian Netherlands from 1714 until 1794; and some fiefs in Imperial Italy. Outside the empire, they encompassed all the Lands of the Hungarian Crown as well as conquests made at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was in Prague. [6]

Origins and expansion

Silver medallion depicting King Rudolf I with his sons Albert and Rudolf II at the Diet of Augsburg, which laid the foundation of the House of Habsburg. Work by Anton Scharff for the 600th anniversary of the constitution of the Erblande, 1882. Augsburg, Silver Medal 600th Anniversary of 1282 Hoftag, obverse.jpg
Silver medallion depicting King Rudolf I with his sons Albert and Rudolf II at the Diet of Augsburg, which laid the foundation of the House of Habsburg. Work by Anton Scharff for the 600th anniversary of the constitution of the Erblande , 1882.

The first Habsburg who can be reliably traced was Radbot of Klettgau, who was born in the late 10th century; the family name originated with Habsburg Castle, in present-day Switzerland, which was built by Radbot. [7] After 1279, the Habsburgs came to rule in the Duchy of Austria, which was part of the elective Kingdom of Germany within the Holy Roman Empire. King Rudolf I of Germany of the Habsburg family assigned the Duchy of Austria to his sons at the Diet of Augsburg (1282), thus establishing the "Austrian hereditary lands". From that moment, the Habsburg dynasty was also known as the House of Austria. Between 1438 and 1806, with few exceptions, the Habsburg Archduke of Austria was elected as Holy Roman Emperor.

The Habsburgs grew to European prominence as a result of the dynastic policy pursued by Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Maximilian married Mary of Burgundy, thus bringing the Burgundian Netherlands into the Habsburg possessions. Their son, Philip the Handsome, married Joanna the Mad of Spain (daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile). Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, the son of Philip and Joanna, inherited the Habsburg Netherlands in 1506, Habsburg Spain and its territories in 1516, and Habsburg Austria in 1519.

At this point, the Habsburg possessions were so vast that Charles V was constantly travelling throughout his dominions and therefore needed deputies and regents, such as Isabella of Portugal in Spain and Margaret of Austria in the Low Countries, to govern his various realms. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Emperor Charles V came to terms with his younger brother Ferdinand. According to the Habsburg compact of Worms (1521), confirmed a year later in Brussels, Ferdinand was made Archduke, as a regent of Charles V in the Austrian hereditary lands. [8] [9]

Following the death of Louis II of Hungary in the Battle of Mohács against the Ottoman Turks, Archduke Ferdinand (who was his brother-in-law by virtue of an adoption treaty signed by Maximilian and Vladislaus II, Louis's father at the First Congress of Vienna) was also elected the next King of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526. [10] [6] Bohemia and Hungary became hereditary Habsburg domains only in the 17th century: Following victory in the Battle of White Mountain (1620) over the Bohemian rebels, Ferdinand II promulgated a Renewed Land Ordinance (1627/1628) that established hereditary succession over Bohemia. Following the Battle of Mohács (1687), in which Leopold I reconquered almost all of Ottoman Hungary from the Turks, the emperor held a diet in Pressburg to establish hereditary succession in the Hungarian kingdom.

Map of Central Europe in 1648:
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Territories under the Holy Roman Empire, comprising the Alpine heartland (Erblande) of the Habsburg monarchy. HRR 1648.png
Map of Central Europe in 1648:
  Territories under the Holy Roman Empire, comprising the Alpine heartland ( Erblande ) of the Habsburg monarchy.

Charles V divided the House in 1556 by ceding Austria along with the Imperial crown to Ferdinand (as decided at the Imperial election, 1531), and the Spanish empire to his son Philip. The Spanish branch (which also held the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Portugal between 1580 and 1640, and the Mezzogiorno of Italy) became extinct in 1700. The Austrian branch (which also ruled the Holy Roman Empire, Hungary and Bohemia) was itself divided between different branches of the family from 1564 until 1665, but thereafter it remained a single personal union.


Names of some smaller territories:


Growth of the Habsburg monarchy in central Europe Growth of Habsburg territories.jpg
Growth of the Habsburg monarchy in central Europe
The Habsburg monarchy at the time of Joseph II's death in 1790. The red line marks the borders of the Holy Roman Empire. Europe 1783-1792 en.png
The Habsburg monarchy at the time of Joseph II's death in 1790. The red line marks the borders of the Holy Roman Empire.

The territories ruled by the Austrian monarchy changed over the centuries, but the core always consisted of four blocs:

Europa regina, symbolizing a Habsburg-dominated Europe Europe As A Queen Sebastian Munster 1570.jpg
Europa regina , symbolizing a Habsburg-dominated Europe
Soldiers of the Military Frontier against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks, 1756 Krajisnici, 1756. g.jpg
Soldiers of the Military Frontier against the incursions of the Ottoman Turks, 1756

Over the course of its history, other lands were, at times, under Austrian Habsburg rule (some of these territories were secundogenitures, i.e. ruled by other lines of Habsburg dynasty):

The boundaries of some of these territories varied over the period indicated, and others were ruled by a subordinate (secundogeniture) Habsburg line. The Habsburgs also held the title of Holy Roman Emperor between 1438 and 1740, and again from 1745 to 1806.


Imperial coat of arms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, used between the years 1815-1866 and 1867-1915. Imperial Coat of Arms of the Empire of Austria.svg
Imperial coat of arms of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, used between the years 1815–1866 and 1867–1915.

Within the early modern Habsburg monarchy, each entity was governed according to its own particular customs. Until the mid 17th century, not all of the provinces were even necessarily ruled by the same person—junior members of the family often ruled portions of the Hereditary Lands as private apanages. Serious attempts at centralization began under Maria Theresa and especially her son Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor in the mid to late 18th century, but many of these were abandoned following large scale resistance to Joseph's more radical reform attempts, although a more cautious policy of centralization continued during the revolutionary period and the Metternichian period that followed.

Another attempt at centralization began in 1849 following the suppression of the various revolutions of 1848. For the first time, ministers tried to transform the monarchy into a centralized bureaucratic state ruled from Vienna. The Kingdom of Hungary was placed under martial law, being divided into a series of military districts, the centralized neo-absolutism tried to as well to nullify Hungary's constitution and Diet. Following the Habsburg defeats in the Second Italian War of Independence (1859) and Austro-Prussian War (1866), these policies were step by step abandoned. [16]

After experimentation in the early 1860s, the famous Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 was arrived at, by which the so-called dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was set up. In this system, the Kingdom of Hungary ("Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of St. Stephen.") was an equal sovereign with only a personal union and a joint foreign and military policy connecting it to the other Habsburg lands. Although the non-Hungarian Habsburg lands were referred to as "Austria", received their own central parliament (the Reichsrat, or Imperial Council) and ministries, as their official name – the "Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council". When Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed (after 30 years of occupation and administration), it was not incorporated into either half of the monarchy. Instead, it was governed by the joint Ministry of Finance.

During the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the Austrian territories collapsed under the weight of the various ethnic independence movements that came to the fore with its defeat in World War I. After its dissolution, the new republics of Austria (the German-Austrian territories of the Hereditary lands) and the First Hungarian Republic were created. In the peace settlement that followed, significant territories were ceded to Romania and Italy and the remainder of the monarchy's territory was shared out among the new states of Poland, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia), and Czechoslovakia.

Other lines

A junior line ruled over the Grand Duchy of Tuscany between 1765 and 1801, and again from 1814 to 1859. While exiled from Tuscany, this line ruled at Salzburg from 1803 to 1805, and in Grand Duchy of Würzburg from 1805 to 1814. The House of Austria-Este ruled the Duchy of Modena from 1814 to 1859, while Empress Marie Louise, Napoleon's second wife and the daughter of Austrian Emperor Francis I, ruled over the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza between 1814 and 1847. Also, the Second Mexican Empire, from 1863 to 1867, was headed by Maximilian I of Mexico, the brother of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria.

Rulers, 1508–1918

The so-called "Habsburg monarchs" or "Habsburg emperors" held many different titles and ruled each kingdom separately through a personal union.

House of Habsburg

Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Infanta Maria of Spain with their children Giuseppe Arcimboldi 003.jpg
Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and his wife Infanta Maria of Spain with their children
Imperial throne of Austria, made for Emperor Franz Joseph I Throne of Franz Joseph I of Austria 01.jpg
Imperial throne of Austria, made for Emperor Franz Joseph I

House of Habsburg-Lorraine

Family tree

In literature

The most famous memoir on the decline of the Habsburg Empire is Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday . [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. First monarch as king of Germany.
  2. First Holy Roman Emperor of the Habsburg dynasty.
  3. Last monarch of a uniform House of Habsburg.
  4. First ruler of the Spanish branch of a divided Habsburg dynasty.
  5. First ruler of the Austrian branch of a divided Habsburg dynasty.
  6. Last ruler of the Spanish branch.
  7. Last Holy Roman Emperor and first emperor of Austria.
  8. Final monarch of the House of Habsburg.


  1. https://www.lindipendenzanuova.com/quando-il-13-dicembre-limperatore-francesco-restitui-a-venezia-i-suoi-4-cavalli/ The Austrian flag in Venice during the Habsburg rule.
  2. 1 2 3 Lott, Elizabeth S.; Pavlac, Brian A., eds. (2019). "Rudolf I (r. 1273–1291)". The Holy Roman Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio. pp. 266–268. ISBN   978-1-4408-4856-8. LCCN   2018048886.
  3. Vienna website; "Austro-Hungarian Empire k.u.k. Monarchy dual-monarchic Habsburg Emperors of Austria". Archived from the original on 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
  4. Encyclopædia Britannica online article Austria-Hungary; https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/44386/Austria-Hungary
  5. 1 2 Hochedlinger 2013 , p. 9.
  6. 1 2 "Czech Republic – Historic Centre of Prague (1992)" Heindorffhus, August 2007, HeindorffHus-Czech Archived 2007-03-20 at archive.today .
  7. Rady 2020 , pp. 12, 14–15
  8. Kanski, Jack J. (2019). History of the German speaking nations. Troubador Publishing. ISBN   978-1789017182.
  9. Pavlac, Brian A.; Lott, Elizabeth S. (2019). The Holy Roman Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. Abc-Clio. ISBN   978-1440848568.
  10. "Ferdinand I". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 June 2023.
  11. Kotulla 2008 , p.  485.
  12. Simon Adams (2005). The Balkans. Black Rabbit Books. pp. 1974–. ISBN   978-1-58340-603-8.
  13. Scott Lackey (1995). The Rebirth of the Habsburg Army: Friedrich Beck and the Rise of the General Staff. ABC-CLIO. pp. 166–. ISBN   978-0-313-03131-1.
  14. Carl Cavanagh Hodge (2008). Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914: A–K. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 59–. ISBN   978-0-313-33406-1.
  15. Hugo Gerhard Ströhl (1851–1919): Oesterreichisch-Ungarische Wappenrolle.
  16. A.J.P. Taylor, The Habsburg monarchy, 1809–1918: a history of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary (University of Chicago Press, 1976).
  17. Giorgio Manacorda (2010) Nota bibliografica in Roth La Marcia di Radetzky, Newton Classici quotation:
    Stefan Zweig, l'autore del più famoso libro sull'Impero asburgico, Die Welt von Gestern


  • Hochedlinger, Michael (2013) [2003]. Austria's Wars of Emergence, 1683–1797. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN   978-0-582-29084-6.
  • Kotulla, Michael (2008). Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte: Vom Alten Reich bis Weimar (1495–1934) (in German). Berlin: Springer. ISBN   978-3-540-48705-0.
  • Rady, Martyn (2020). The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power. London: Allen Lane. ISBN   978-0-241-33262-7.

Further reading